Hollywood number crunchers estimate that by 2008, one-quarter of all studio comedies will feature a permutation of the acting collective popularly dubbed the Frat Pack, who have risen to dominance in the last few years: Zoolander (2001): Stiller, O. Wilson, Ferrell; The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): Stiller, O. Wilson, L. Wilson; Old School (2003): Ferrell, Vaughn, L. Wilson; Starsky & Hutch (2004): Stiller, O. Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell; Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004): Stiller, Vaughn; Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): Ferrell, Stiller, Vaughn, L. Wilson; Meet the Fockers (2004): Stiller, O. Wilson; Wedding Crashers (2005): Vaughn, O. Wilson, [name redacted].
Know your Frat Pack! Ben Stiller is the tightly coiled workaholic, pecs and brain muscles rippling in rhythm; he’s both the Idea Man and the Body. Will Ferrell is the galvanizing force of nature, macho-suave yet thrumming with reserves of sugar-smacked hysteria, hairy of chest and manner yet unafraid to cry like a girl or scream like a woman. Luke Wilson is the puppyish boy next door, useful as straight man, cuckold, corruptible innocent, or all-around pathos provider. Luke’s brother Owen is, immortally, the Butterscotch Stallion (a superhero designation bestowed by gossip website Defamer), dazed yet pensive, a golden halation of cannabinoid vibeology, surfer orbs glazing into the distance in eternal search of that perfect wave. And Vaughn, something of a utility player, is either the phlegmatic layabout or, more often, the sardonic motormouth, the poker of ribs, the shit stirrer.
He stirs plenty in Wedding Crashers, in which John (O. Wilson) and Jeremy (Vaughn) are dating cynics who spend each matrimonial high season infiltrating receptions in search of no-strings booty, their passage lubricated by a pair of counterfeit Purple Hearts and the allegedly aphrodisiac effects of the wedding rites upon the unmarried female species. Given this premise, perhaps it goes without saying that the Fratsters would behoove themselves to invite a few girls to their clubhouse, which at this point is rank with recirculated air. A punishingly distended reception montage scored to “Shout” assumes inherent humor in watching Wilson and Vaughn crack themselves up, especially if Vaughn has a thick wad of cake in his mouth.
As in Old School, the overgrown adolescents develop a self-invented, rather Masonic inventory of rituals and rules, several of which are apparently broken at “the greatest crash of all time,” where the father of the bride is Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary (bored Christopher Walken). Jeremy marks youngest Cleary daughter Gloria (Isla Fisher), pops her cherry on a beach, and—mission accomplished—wants to skedaddle. But John is so smitten with maid of honor middle daughter Claire (alpha Mean Girl Rachel McAdams) that he follows her back to the family compound, where Jeremy is soon besieged by light-bondage enthusiast Gloria and her scowling gay brother (Keir O’Donnell).
Wedding Crashers arranges for two stunted louts to come of age 20 years behind schedule, though the fairer sex as envisioned here would seem to hold no allure for the commitment-phobe. The movie drags out by the hair the oversexed, underserviced wifey (Jane Seymour) and the sweet, little bigoted grandma (Ellen Albertini Dow), Gloria is a deranged brat, and Claire flirts plaintively with John without disclosing the existence of her blueblood-sociopath beau (Bradley Cooper). Wilson is as blandly charming and recessive as in The Life Aquatic; with drunk-auctioneer delivery of lines like “The proper girl in the hat just eye-fucked the shit out of me,” the perpetually riled Vaughn can generate a modicum of goodwill, one immediately negated by lines like “I felt like Jodie Foster in The Accused last night.” Amiable and hollow, Wedding Crashers is briefly enlivened by the final-act appearance of a Frat Pack axiom, given a shadowy star entrance in a blood-red dressing gown and redolent of a seedier, funnier party happening somewhere else.